Community Update: “New look” River Riders Bike Share up and rolling, Be a part of the next “big” idea at HATCH-Wisconsin Rapids



“New look” River Riders Bike Share relaunches

VIDEO: Click on the photo to see my video of the new stations! Bike share went live on Thursday, June 14th!

If you’ve noticed the new River Rider Bike Share installations in our area, you’ll realize that this nationally recognized, community-conceived program continues to roll forward with innovations. The program launched its fourth season of operation on Thursday, June 14, is headed by coalition formed by Healthy People Wood County Wood County Health Department.

Starting its fourth year of operation, after two years of planning the no-frills, donated and restored cranberry colored bikes, River Riders Bike Share is introducing an updated, app-based program with Zagster, a national bike sharing company. The immediate result is a larger and more technologically advanced selection of bicycles. A rider can download the free Zagster app, available on the App Store, Google Play or online. Using this app, a rider can register, find stations and bikes, and use the app or an  

Tom Loucks/WRCM – Check out the new stations around town by searching

access code to unlock the bike to use. (Riders who do not have Internet availability will be able gain computer and Internet access through an installation at each site.)

When a rider is done with the bike, he or she can return it to any of the designated stations, regardless of where it was first checked out. Each bike contains technology that facilitates fee assessments and tracking.

From 2015 to 2017, River Riders Bike Share tracked more than 700 rides. Last year, the program was awarded a Mayors’ Climate Protection Award during the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ summer meeting in Miami. This national recognition affirmed that this community and its citizens are committed to fostering a healthy and sustainable environment in which to live, work and play.

In launching this updated program, the Healthy People Wood County Recreate Health coalition engaged the community, meeting with residents and organizations to get them involved in making decisions for locations, types of accessible bikes and membership fees. Responding to this feedback, the group researched options to continue making the program safe, accessible and affordable, while allowing for easy tracking of the bikes

River Riders Bike Share is empowering people to adopt a healthier, non-polluting mode of transportation that not only promotes healthful exercise, but also offers a convenient way to conduct short grocery shopping trips, job searches and visitor exploration.

Be a part of the next “big” idea at HATCH-Wisconsin Rapids

Join us in the Urban Forestry lab at Mid-State for HATCH 2018! Click on the photo to see the invite on Facebook.

Would you like the opportunity to help select the next “big” business idea? Your chance comes next Wednesday, when the City of Wisconsin Rapids again hosts HATCH – the exciting, community-based competition that helps entrepreneurs to transform their “napkin” ideas into early-stage companies. As an audience member, you get to vote on the winning idea!

Five presenters have five minutes to “pitch” their ideas in front of judges  – one of whom will be yours truly – and a live audience for the chance to win $2,000 and be selected as a semi-finalist for the HATCH regional finale. As so many participants discovered last year, HATCH is fun, highly social and inspirational.

The event is free and open to the public, and takes place on June 20, from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m., in the Urban Forestry Lab at Mid-State Technical College (I building, room 142), 500 32nd Street N. Complimentary food and beverages from Great Expectations will be served, and a DJ will be on hand to help keep spirits lively.

Semi-finalists in each region will eventually pitch for the grand prize of $5,000 and other business services for the best articulated and most developed business idea. Last year, the grand prize was awarded in a tie vote to two finalists: a business that helps track the growth of trees and a concept for an easy-access infant onesie.

Take advantage of this opportunity to bring a great idea to life. Join us at HATCH.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update: Enjoy fun and healthy activity at 3rd Annual Kids to Parks Day, Celebrate the 11th Annual Cranberry Blossom Festival


Enjoy fun and healthy activity at 3rd Annual Kids to Parks Day

Families and individuals of all ages are invited to get outdoors and play! The third annual Kids to Parks Day  takes place Saturday, June 16, at Robinson Park, 1150 17th Street North, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Young ones will enjoy a variety of arts & crafts, kick ball and disc golf. Kids can also bring their own squirt guns for a squirt gun fight.

This afternoon of fun and healthful activity is brought to you by the City of Wisconsin Rapids, the Mayor’s Youth Council and the National Park Trust. It’s a way to build a greater awareness and appreciation for the importance of our country’s public lands and parks.

Get in on the action Saturday afternoon, and discover how much fun healthy living can be!

Celebrate the 11th Annual Cranberry Blossom Festival

The celebration of our City, and all it has to offer, officially kicks off with the 11th Annual Cranberry Blossom Festival, Thursday through Sunday, June 14-17. Individuals of all ages will find among nearly 30 events an all-around spectacle of live music, fun activities, arts & crafts, exhibits, foods from local vendors, and more.

Highlights this year include the fun-filled, three-day Riverfront Carnival, an outdoor presentation on West Grand Avenue of Disney’s The Lion King for “Cinema Under the Stars” and the lively Friends of Rapids Music “Music Fest”

The parade hosted by the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce will gather downtown and begin at noon on Sunday, June 17.

The festivities close out in grand style on Sunday, June 17, with – among other special events – the colorful Cranberry Blossom Festival Parade; “5th Quarter” showmanship by the University of Wisconsin Marching Band “5th Quarter” Show; and the Wisconsin Rapids Aqua Skiers Show Team Performance.

Make time to join family and friends at this year’s Cranberry Blossom Festival!

Thank you for reading and I hope to see you out at the events this year.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Splash and stay cool, Splash Pad opens Friday, May 25 at 3pm; Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Zoo set to open on Memorial Day


Splash and stay cool, Splash Pad opens Friday, May 25 at 3pm

The Splash Pad opens Friday, May 25 at 3pm.

It’s going to be hot, temperatures are expected to reach in the high 80’s/low 90’s going into the holiday weekend, so come out and join us by cooling off for the opening day of the Splash Pad at Mead Athletic Field Friday, May 25 at 3pm.

On the first day of fall last year, Sept. 1, we unveiled our new Splash Pad. We were lucky enough to extend that time because of warmer than usual temperatures in September.  But now, we are ready to provide a way for all to enjoy and keep cool this summer by visiting Mead Field.  

A formal grand opening is planned this summer, so stay tuned into this blog, Facebook and the City’s media channels.

There is no cost to play so please invite your friends and family to visit Wisconsin Rapids and while you’re here, grab a bite to eat or a cool treat at a fine local establishment. At the splash pad, you will find some really cool and unique features such as:

  • River race, a toddler favorite and fun for everyone! (Bring a small ball or small toy that floats)
  • Light spray splash features for the younger kids
  • Lively and exciting spray features for the older kids
  • Interactive spray features to encourage team play and creativity
  • Four water cannons for games and challenges

This is the first in many steps in providing family-friendly, outdoor recreational facilities for residents and visitors.  We are also “Taking the Plunge” by fundraising for the Regional Aquatic Center at Witter Field. Our goal is to raise $4.5 million with corporate, individual and philanthropic donations in order to reach out goal.  The Mayor’s Youth Council is also in the process of raising $250,000 towards the project with fundraisers through the summer.  We encourage you to follow our progress at

Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Zoo set to open on Memorial Day

File photo – The City of Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Zoo opens Monday, May 28 at 10am for the season.

Memorial Day is the celebration to honor for those who fought selflessly in combat, as well as those who are Veterans and current members of the US military.  It also means an extra day to spend with family and friends and there is no better way than getting outdoors with a visit to the City of Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Zoo.

File photo – The Zoo has many unique animals to see and feed.

The Municipal Zoo officially opens for the season on Memorial Day, May 28 at 10am. There is no admission fee but donations are always welcome. If you would like to feed the animals, it is available for purchase on site.

Throughout the summer, our Parks and Recreation Department has several special activities planned for youth, adults and families visiting the Municipal Zoo.   A coloring contest, Adult in the Park, Weird Science Experiments, Down at the Zoo and Story Time activities are some of the events planned.  For more information on these events and rules and guidelines visit the Municipal Zoo webpage, here.

The Municipal Zoo is one of those jewels we have in our city.  We are grateful for a generous benefactor who provided $300,000 to help provide improvements to the Zoo.   Currently the Mayor’s Youth Council along with Community Development Specialist Madelin Petz, are completing a master plan process to help us guide future investments and improvements.

Hours of operation:

  • Memorial Day, Monday ,May 28 – 10am – 7pm
  • July 4, closes early at 4pm
  • Tuesdays thru Sundays, 10am-7pm and closed Mondays for cleaning and maintenance
  • Petting Zoo closed daily from 1-2pm.
  • No admission fee; donations accepted.
  • Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. 

Thank you for reading and have a great holiday weekend!

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Mayor’s Youth Council and Culver’s to co-host aquatics fundraiser, Young Professionals spearhead Spring Clean this weekend



Mayor’s Youth Council and Culver’s to co-host aquatics fundraiser

The Mayor’s Youth Council continues to stay busy, coordinating the raising of funds for the Wisconsin Rapids Regional Aquatics Park at Witter Field. Culver’sis generously participating in the latest effort.

Next Monday, May 21, we encourage community members, family and friends to purchase lunch and/or dinner – or, maybe, a “family-fresh” custard – at Culver’s, 2711 8th Street South. Culver’s will donate to the Aquatics Park 10 percent of all sales through 8 p.m.

The Mayor’s Youth Council has set a fundraising goal of $250,000 for the Wisconsin Rapids Regional Aquatics Park. Find more information and help us out by donating here

Young Professionals spearhead Spring Clean this weekend

File photo – In 2017 the event took place in Downtown Wisconsin Rapids, but this year the event will stage outside Sportsman’s Pub Grille, 4810 Eighth Street South.

Current, the Young Professionals organization in Wisconsin Rapids, continues its contributions to making our community more inviting and appealing. This Sunday, May 20, the group hosts Spring Clean.

All are invited to meet at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of Sportsman’s Pub & Grill, 4810 8th Street South. Participants will then help clean up areas near Sportsman’s, including along Highway Z and Highway 13, until 12 noon. Special thanks to Country Disposal, LLC, which will pick up what is collected.

Afterward, you’re invited to socialize or, if you’d like, enjoy refreshments and/or lunch.  

Thank you for reading my blog.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Alexander Field breaks ground on latest improvements, City begins upgrade of West Side Lift Station/River Crossing



Alexander Field breaks ground on latest improvements May 10

Photo by Tom Loucks/WRCM – Alexander Field’s open house is set for Thursday, May 10, 2018.

The role that Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport can play in helping to spur economic growth continues to attract attention at both the State and Federal levels.

A demonstration of that recognition was celebrated yesterday, May 10th. Along with airport management and other governmental officials, residents attended a groundbreaking ceremony that formally kicks off the latest round of improvements to promote safety and greater economic activity at Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport. View the groundbreaking here.

With the support of nearly $4 million from the 2017-2019 State of Wisconsin Biennial Budget, upcoming improvements include: apron expansion and reconstruction to increase aircraft parking capacity and safety; parallel taxiways to promote safer access to and from active runways, while reducing congestion; runway lighting and surface upgrades; and planning for development of a future corporate hangar area.

In addition, the Federal government has weighed in with $5.65 million in funding for the fall 2017 Taxiway B stormwater mitigation project; the widening and reconstruction of Runway 12/30 this spring; and the construction of Runway A during the spring of 2019.

As Sand Valley Golf Resort continues to expand, people from around the world are coming to central Wisconsin, and can see the potential our area offers for investment and development. The upgrading of Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport offers additional incentive for visitors to invest in our workforce and the area.

The timing of the May 10 airport improvement groundbreaking ceremony perfectly links to another event that ties together the assets that make our area a prime locale for opportunity and growth. That very morning, I was honored to kick off the Central Wisconsin Economic Development Summit at Hotel Mead. Hosted by the City and Regional Economic Growth Initiative (REGI), supported by Incourage and MSTC, the summit featured discussion panels on workforce development, central place innovation and regional opportunities.

Investment is happening all around us and it is certainly securing our economic future!

City begins upgrade of West Side Lift Station/River Crossing

As the City of Wisconsin Rapids continues its march toward revitalization, we recognize the essential role that modern and sustainable infrastructure plays as a foundation of economic growth. That is why I, along with other municipal officials, eagerly anticipate construction on the new West Side Lift Station and the Wisconsin River Crossing force main, which began early this month. These upgrades will allow for the continued reliable transport and processing of wastewater, while protecting the environment.

Project update here.

Originally constructed as the City’s first wastewater treatment facility in 1936 and converted into a lift station in 1971, the lift station, at 1911 Gaynor Avenue, serves the wastewater needs of the entire west side of the City. The facility pumps sewage to the East Side located Wastewater Plant and processes more than 1.5 million gallons of wastewater per day.

Key upgrades will include: four pumps to provide redundancy in the event of a pump failure; new backup power generation; and five times more wet-well storage capacity to prevent backups should a failure occur. Just as now, the upgraded facility will pump wastewater at higher elevation, thus avoiding the excessive excavation depths and high sewer construction costs required by a traditional gravity conveyance.

The Wisconsin River Crossing force main carries water, sewage and other materials. This improvement places the main under the riverbed, which eliminates the need to dig trenches. This will avoid costlier excavation equipment and trench-shoring techniques.

The new overall infrastructure will result in life expectancies of 80-100 years for the river crossing force main, 50-80 years for the lift station structure and 20-40 years for lift station equipment. This ensures safe and reliable transport and processing of wastewater for generations to come.

The City received funding for this reconstruction project through a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Clean Water Fund Loan, which includes $700,000 in principal forgiveness. City officials anticipated and included this project and its costs in the City’s 2016 wastewater rate study, identifying and spreading out the impacts on wastewater user rates. The entire project cost is $7.7 million! 

We are proud to see the beginning of these important projects, and look forward to their completion. For ongoing updates regarding these projects, we encourage citizens to visit, or call Wastewater Superintendent Ryan Giefer at 715-252-5123.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: East River Bank project another step toward riverfront renaissance, Yard waste/brush collection begins soon – do your part to help


East River Bank project another step toward riverfront reawakening

Next Monday, the City of Wisconsin Rapids will take another visible step forward toward revitalizing our Downtown Riverfront District: Contractor crews will begin work on Phase 1 of our River Bank Improvement Project.

Contractor crews will begin south of the Riverview Expressway and work their way north to downtown through the construction season. Completion of this phase of the overall riverbank improvement project is expected by September 28.

Work for the overall Riverbank Improvement Project primarily focuses on the East River Corridor, from Riverview Expressway to East Grand Avenue, and includes riverbank stabilization with rip rap, re-grading, and installation of a new kayak/canoe launch and shade structure in Demitz Park. An underbridge trail connection is being added so pedestrians and bicyclists may safely get between the north and south sides of the Riverview Expressway safely, as well as a trail along 2nd street from Mead Street north. Separately, a recreational trail will also get paved this summer along the 1st Street north corridor to Biron.

This first phase is part of our community’s overall vision to enhance and improve ways for residents, visitors and businesses to interact with public spaces along the Wisconsin River, our City’s most precious natural asset which began in 2013. Creating such a space is key to economic development: It is estimated that other Wisconsin communities that have enhanced their riverfront areas have seen an average of a $7 return on investment for every dollar put into such projects.

State of Wisconsin support for this Phase 1 East River Bank improvement comes from a grant of more than $700,000 from the State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. We are proud that the State has expressed its confidence in our plans for growth, development and prosperity in the Downtown Waterfront District. A vibrant central place not only benefits Wisconsin Rapids residents and visitors, but the broader region as a whole.

Weekly updates for the East River Bank project will be posted online at the City website,, under Public Works. For more information, call 715-421-8205.

Spring yard waste collection begins soon – do your part to help

Public Works crews provide brush pickup the last week of each month May – October.

Spring has arrived – and with it, the desire to get a fresh start on our lawns and surrounding property. City of Wisconsin Rapids Streets Department workers will help residents get started, but they need your help to make their work as efficient as possible.

City crews begin with a week of yard waste pickup, scheduled for May 14-21. To prepare for this pickup, have your yard waste bagged at the curb in front of your residence.

Then, throughout the spring and running through the middle of autumn, the City will make regular runs to pick up brush and trees during the last full workweek of each month. Again, you can help workers get the most out of their efforts, by piling your brush in a neat and orderly fashion, limited to maximum size of 4 feet high, six feet wide and 10 feet long.

See the full brush pickup schedule for 2018, here.

Crews will make only one trip through City neighborhoods on designated collection days. So, remember to have your waste and/or brush out and ready to collect on the Sunday prior to the week of pick up.

For more information, contact the Public Works Street Department at 715-421-8218.

Thank you for reading.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Young Professionals highlight local opportunity, Join Wisconsin Rapids Spring Clean 2.0 on May 13



Young Professionals highlight local opportunity

Wisconsin Rapids will join 26 other communities throughout the State of Wisconsin to focus on the future of our community, during Young Professionals Week, April 20-28.

Current , the vibrant Young Professionals organization in Wisconsin Rapids, invites area professionals of all ages and career stages to share experiences, viewpoints and aspirations through a variety of interactive learning and social events:

  • Multi Millions: Community Investment Panel will run from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, at the Wisconsin Rapids Elks Club, 430 W. Jackson Street. Panelists representing Aspirus Riverview Hospital & Clinics, South Wood County YMCA, Wisconsin Rapids Area Boys & Girls Club, Incourage and the City of Wisconsin Rapids will provide an overview and answer questions about the multi-million dollar projects happening in our City.
  • Workout Wednesday, on Wednesday, April 25, will feature a morning yoga class at 7 a.m. and an evening workout at 7 p.m. at Limitless Bootcamp, 3110 48th Street N. in Grand Rapids.

YPWeek highlights the range of opportunities that are possible in our area and how young professionals can help to bring that future to life. I join with Current in inviting you to continue joining in to grow a sustainable environment for civic engagement and economic growth.

Join Wisconsin Rapids Spring Clean 2.0 on May 13

The City of Wisconsin Rapids and Current, our local Young Professionals organization, once again urge all residents, young and old, to help beautify our City’s neighborhoods, during the second annual Spring Clean event.

File photo – In 2017 the event took place in Downtown Wisconsin Rapids, but this year the event will stage outside Sportsman’s Pub & Grille, 4810 Eighth Street S.

Meet us this Sunday, May 13, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., outside Sportsman’s Pub & Grille, 4810 Eighth Street S., for a group photo and drink specials. Location assignments, garbage bags and gloves will be provided.

This is truly a total community event, for young and old. Adults and minors  can register to pitch in and help.

Do your part for to put a good “face” on our community … join Spring Clean 2.0!​

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink